Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 8:33 PM on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Exploring the literary arts

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference celebrates 10th year

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photo provided

Rita Dove, keynote speaker for the 2011 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference.

There will be cake this Friday as the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference celebrates a milestone — its 10th year of the annual celebration of literary arts sponsored by the Kachemak Bay Campus. Poet, writer and keynote speaker Rita Dove starts the conference with her address on Friday. The conference runs Friday-Tuesday at Land's End Resort.

Today is the last day to register at the special anniversary rate of $340. Registration at the door is $400. KBC director Carol Swartz said about 25 spaces are available.

The conference features 18 nationally recognized authors, editors and agents who present creative writing workshops, readings, craft talks and panel discussions in fiction, nonfiction, children's writing, poetry and the business of writing. Optional activities include manuscript reviews, editor-agent consultations, receptions, a boat cruise and an open mic.

Dove leads a weekend of free public readings at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mariner Theatre. Dove also will be available for questions after her reading as well as a book signing. Other conference writers and poets read Sunday and Monday; see schedule, this page.

In addition to her keynote address and reading, Dove presents a talk on Monday, "Time Is On My Side: The Narrative vs. The Lyric." The keynote address and her talk are open only to conference attendees.

Dove was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993-95, and won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her book, "Thomas and Beulah." A fiction writer and playwright as well as a poet, her work includes "Sonata Mullatica," "American Smooth," "On the Bus With Rosa Parks," the short story collection "Fifth Sunday" and the novel "Through the Ivory Gate."

Working in all three literary genres, Dove shows an understanding of the differences and challenges between fiction, poetry and theater.

"At some level we start writing because we're struck speechless. We haven't found the word," Dove said in a phone interview from Charlottesville, Va., where she teaches in the master of fine arts creative writing program at the University of Virginia.

Poetry presents a special challenge from prose.

"Every poem feels like an entirely new ball game, with its own rules. I'm always convinced I'm not going to be able to do this," Dove said.

That's one of the differences with prose, she said.

"With poetry, you're confronted much more often with feeling inarticulate, not being able to come up with anything. It's not just the right word, it's the right sound, it's the right pacing," she said.

Not so with prose.

"There's a lot you can do in the meantime," Dove said. "You can just sit your butt down and write."

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference Festival of Readings

8 p.m. Saturday Mariner Theatre

Rita Dove

Limited seating; doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Book signing to follow

8 p.m. Sunday, Alice's Champagne


Nickole Brown LeAnne HoweHeather Lende Peggy Shumaker Frank Soos Sherry Simpson

Monday, Land's End Resort

5:15 p.m.:

Mike Burwell Rich Chiappone Ann Coray Nancy Lord

8 p.m.:

Brenda Miller Hannah Tinti Eva Saulitis Donna Jo Napoli Rigoberto Gonzalez Matt Roesch

Does she use prose to warm up to write poetry?

"No one's ever asked me that," she said. "The answer is no. If I'm writing a poem, I'm writing a poem. I'm not thinking like a prose writer."

Her latest poetry collection, "Sonata Mullatica," is an example of how she chose poetry for an idea that could just as easily have been prose. Subtitled "A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play," it's about George Augustus Polgreen Bridgewater, a child prodigy and contemporary of Beethoven who was the son of a Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father. Bridgewater had performed with Beethoven, and Beethoven dedicated what would become the Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgewater, only to remove his name after they quarreled.

"It's a great story. It could have been a movie and a novel," Dove said of Bridgewater. "What I was more interested in was what he felt at particular moments — what did it feel like to be this prodigy at this particular time of the world?"

Dove said she didn't want to repeat the story.

"Who needs that? I was so haunted by it. For me I began to write those poems because I needed to figure out why I was haunted," she said.

It's not narrative or a novel in verse, Dove said.

"I don't think it's anything. Take it all together and you'll have a sense of that life, those souls," she said.

Dove and other faculty members explore numerous aspects of the literary arts, with panel discussions on everything from the business of writing to how to take the leap from short story to novel writing.

Faculty member Rigoberto Gonzalez also presents a two day post-conference workshop June 14-16 at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge. Gonzalez offers a cross-genre workshop in which "participants will zero in on the natural textures of the environment to identify 'seeds' that will grow into micro-prose or prose poems," as he describes the conference. The fee for the post-conference workshop is $375, including housing, meals and water taxi.

To register for the Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference, and to find out more, visit its website at writersconference.homer.alaska.edu. Registration forms are available online. Participants can register at the Kachemak Bay Campus through today.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.